Exhibition highlights life among death

Categories: Community Engagement.

The exhibition is now open at Liverpool’s Walker Gallery, until 15 September 2013, and features more than 70 images, many of them featuring people with life-limiting illnesses, including patients from Claire House Children’s Hospice and palliative care doctor at Lewis-Manning Hospice Dr Simon Pennell.

Rankin, who has photographed people including Madonna, Kevin Spacey, David Bowie, Cate Blanchett and The Queen, among many others, came up with the concept of this exhibition to explore and challenge perceptions of death. The exhibition aims to reveal the stories of those touched by death, both visually and through the accompanying words about each individual’s experience.

The exhibition features people living with a life-limiting or terminal illness, people who have faced death and survived, and people who work in the death industry. The images aim to capture the determination, optimism and zest for life of all participants, which was obvious on viewing. The character, humanity, vulnerability and spirit of each individual was evident in each image.

Rankin said his experience of death, through his parents who both died in 2005 just three weeks apart, and through a friend in a tragic accident, made him want to explore the concept of death for this exhibition. He spoke of his own fear of death but how he is realising that he, and everyone, needs to talk about it. 

The exhibition opening was connected to Dying Matters Awareness Week. About 50 people from Claire House Hospice, including all seven who were photographed for the exhibition, were in attendance at the private view on Thursday night. Rankin’s affection for and easy candour with those photographed was obvious on the night. And he spoke of what a great experience he had in meeting the hospice participants.

Others featured in the portraits include a victim/survivor of the London 7/7 bombings, a soldier and a stabbing victim. ‘Death masks’ of famous people were also displayed as a collection – the subjects almost unrecognisable. 

Alive: in the face of death will be showing at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool until 15 September 2013.

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